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Development of Animation at Disney

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Animation
Wordcount: 2607 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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“You must not let anyone define your limits because of where you come from. Your only limit is your soul.” – ​Ratatouille.

​  Walt Disney’s fame all started in 1923 when a bankrupt animator moved from Kansas City to Hollywood to collaborate with his older brother in the making of a small movie studio.

This small studio would eventually turn into billions of dollars in revenue from numerous movies and 12 Disney movie-based amusement parks across the globe and another 51 resorts for Walt Disney fans to visit. Walt Disney directly was involved in 81 films while in Hollywood. Many of these films were such a huge success that the stories of them are known by billions of people all over the world today, over a half a century later (Shah, 2018). Walt Disney’s success could not be achieved on his own, without the help from many skilled animators. Today, even after his death, the Disney company continues to choose the right people and that has proven to be the equation to the Disney success story found within their films. 

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Josh Meador proved to have quite an imagination with his films, his ability to create astonishing art helped his animations. Meador played an important role in the making of  ​Pinocchio (1940), and in the 1958 “Disneyland” television episode “Tricks of Our Trade,” he recreated his role as animation supervisor for the “Rite of Spring” segment of ​Fantasia (1940), developing the technique of using bubbling mud to simulate the lava. He animated on most Disney features and numerous shows of the 1940s and 1950s, including ​Dumbo (1941), ​Bambi (1942), ​Saludos Amigos (1943), and created animation effects for ​Song of the South (1946). Meador helped greatly during the making of these Disney movies (Walt’s Animation and Special Effects Master: Josh Meador, 2017).

 Meador joined the Disney Organization in 1936. As a special effects’ director, he was part of the Academy Award winning team for 20,000 Leagues under the Sea in 1954. The work he was most proud of creating was the water effects in Cinderella, Bambi and the fire and mud scenes in the Rite of Spring in Fantasia (Animation Reel for Disney Effects, 2016) Cinderella stories are the most popular type of fairy tales today and are often found in Disney’s most popular films. A Cinderella Story has taken on a theme of its own. The original Cinderella Story was in fact Cinderella.  A Cinderella story is found when a character is at a lowest point in their circumstances and unexpectedly reaches great success. Producers use Cinderella stories portray themes and morals by creating characters that at first struggle but are patient, never panic, and are willing to sacrifice to eventually have a happy ever ending. The producers of Disney allow the audience to connect with the character, in this case Cinderella, Cinderella is patient while her evil stepsisters turned her into a slave. Disney created a theme that good things can happen to good people just because they are generally good. Cinderella even though her carriage becomes a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight proved true love prevails as the prince searched his kingdom until he found her and fit the glass slipper on her foot. Disney allows what appears to be a sad story for Cinderella to end with the best possible ending.

 Meador’s second job was being an artist, his use of creativity and passion for art made him such a great animator. Disney understood this, as Meador was coming up to his twentieth year with The Walt Disney Studios, he wanted to put more of his time into his fine art painting but Disney did not want to lose him. In 1955, Disney called Meador into his office and negotiated a compromise. Meador would be free to paint full-time, but when Disney needed him, Meador would remain under contract on an “on-call’ basis (Walt’s Animation and Special Effects Master: Josh Meador, 2017). Both men grew to like the arrangement. Under it, Meador did some of his most memorable work such as world-famous Sleeping Beauty. 

Ward Kimball joined Disney Studios in 1934 as an animator. He eventually became involved in all aspects of animation production, most notably as the designer of Jiminy Cricket for the film “Pinocchio.” Disney and his team created unique ways to display morals found in his films. These creative ideas helped young children remember important life lessons from the movie. Animators often created different physical characteristics that helped the audiences develop a theme. For an example, in Pinocchio a small lie turned disastrous for each of the Disney characters. It is obvious that Disney felt that children needed to be honest and at the same time felt that adults must also be true to their word. A disobedient child must learn to be good.  Disney and his producers created a movie that illustrated to children that Pinocchio who longed to be a real boy had to prove that he was worthy of becoming a real boy by eventually being willing to sacrifice his life for his father. The producers decided with the animations that a wood toy that comes to life can’t be influenced to do bad things. Pinocchio seemed to have choices to make and Disney provides the audience with both the good and the bad of his decisions. Eventually Pinocchio chooses the right path, as illustrated by the producers turning Pinocchio into a hero.    

Kimball was also responsible for the redesign of Mickey Mouse.  His work was often ‘wilder’ than the other Disney animators and was unique. “Ward Kimball is one man who works for me that I’m willing to call a genius”. – Walt Disney. Ward Kimball won two academy awards for the best animated short films (About Ward Kimball, 2014). ​Jimmy Cricket in Pinocchio became the first of many star characters Kimball animated and supervised, which include the crows in ​Dumbo, the title song in ​The Three Caballeros, Jaq, Gus and Lucifer in ​Cinderella, at least half of the characters in ​Alice in Wonderland, and many more. ​ ​

Another producer/animator was Les Clark. Clark ​after putting a lot of time into ​Snow White, decide to go on to animate some of the most loved Disney characters, including Pinocchio, Cinderella, Alice, and Tinker Bell. He then became a well known and trusted director, he first became a sequence director on Sleeping Beauty, and then as a director on informational shorts such as ​Donald in Math Magic Land.  Clark was well known for his ability in making  rhythmic animation that timed well with musical sequences, and also had a like for emotional acting. He always aimed to please, a personality trait that Walt needed among some of his more outspoken animators.​ ​In an effort to improve his skills,  Clark attended art school while he worked at the Studios,he believed artists never stop working . His skills indeed did improve  and he was soon tasked with the important and difficult job of animating the seven dwarfs in Walt’s first full-length animated film, ​Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Les Clarks hard work and creativity earned him the reputation of being one of nine of the main animators for Walt Disney (The First of the Nine: Les Clark, 2017).

Millions of children watch Disney movies each day and as they watch they begin to develop their own interpretation of the fantasies displayed in the films. These themes and morals from these kid-based movies are often portrayed to the youth in ways that they can easily understand. The animators and directors purposely created these films in order to send a message that can be remembered by the younger audience. In Snow White there are many themes that the Disney writers and producers made evident to anyone who watched the movies. These themes included work ethic, teamwork, and staying unified against all odds even when it appeared there was no way to win. The producers created an evil queen that looked the part,  which allowed the audience to infer she was evil and could not be trusted. The animators had to create an illusion that children would recognize the good guys from the bad guys. On the other hand, Snow White was created to be a “perfect’ character which allowed the audience to be sympathetic to her. In the movie, Snow White runs away from the queen and goes into an empty house, where she finds seven small men who are also very hard working like her. Due to the groups work ethic they eventually help Snow White defeat evil. Disney and his producers believed that they had a purpose other than just entertainment for their movies. The themes of teamwork and defeating the odds are prime examples of Disney’s visions found in his movies.

Lasseter is widely credited with engineering the success of Pixar Animation

Studios through a synthesis of cutting-edge computer animation and classic storytelling. He is best known for his work on films such as ​Toy Story (1995), the first fully computer-animated feature, and its sequels (1999, 2010) and he won an academy award for best short animated film. Lasseter directed the initial effort, ​Toy Story, which featured many talking toys. It became the highest-grossing film of 1995 and earned him a second Academy Award, this time for special achievement. Lasseter went on to direct other successful Pixar films for Disney—namely, ​A Bug’s Life (1998), a comical adventure featuring animated insects, and ​Toy Story 2 (1999), a sequel featuring further adventures of the toys from the 1995 hit. He directed ​Cars

(2006), which followed an array of anthropomorphic vehicles. During that time Lasseter also produced such Pixar films as ​Monsters, Inc. (2001), about the clash between the monster and human worlds, and ​Finding Nemo (2003) (John Lesseter Biography, 2019).

Bird fell in love with the art that comes within animating, he was taught by Milt Kahl, one of Disney’s reputed Nine Old Men.  He rejoined John Lasseter at ​Pixar​ in 2000, and then he developed his second animated film, ​The Incredibles (2004). He directed his third film, ​Ratatouille in 2007. Both films place among Pixar’s highest-grossing features and gave Bird two Academy Award for Best Animated Feature wins and Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay nominations. His second live-action film, ​Tomorrowland, starring George Clooney, was released in May 2015, it had some success but nowhere near the success of his first three films (Brad Bird, 2016).  In 2018, ​Incredibles 2 was released, which Bird wrote and directed.

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The Walt Disney Studios, where Glen Keane learned how to animate from legendary Disney artists Eric Larson, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston—three of Walt Disney’s “Nine Old Men.” Some films allowed Keane to work with Johnston, a man whose love of trains common among many animators at the Studios during Walt’s tenure—reinforced the importance of childlike wonder to the art of animation. Each character brought new challenges and deeper insights for the young animator, but the caliber of Keane’s work brought praise from his mentors. animation and computer-generated imagery (CGI) in ​Tarzan (1999), ​Treasure Planet (2002), and Tangled (2010). Box office draw and Financial rewards- But it also paid off: 101 Dalmatians broke box office records on the Thanksgiving weekend of release and was the top grossing film.

​At the 1939 Academy Awards, Walt Disney was presented with an honorary award ​“for creating Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), te film was recognized as a significant screen innovation. The movie has brought smiles to millions and pioneered a great new entertainment field for the motion picture cartoon. This  film is is well known in hollywood and has broken many records in Hollywood. It was a ​massive critical and commercial success with an estimated collection of ​$8 million (Make Believe: The World of Glen Keane, 2018).

​ In 1989, the United States Library of Congress deemed the film ​ “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry. The film is ​ranked among the 100 greatest American films by the AFI (American Film Institute). It was also named as the ​greatest American animated film of all time in 2008 (McNary, 2018).

​  The golden age is the most successful time period in Disney History. Walt Disney is unquestionably the most decorated director of all time with 22 academy awards and 59 nominations. He has been awarded 4 honorary awards.  In today’s era, over a half a decade after Walt Disney’s death, Disney’s team continues to use the same ways to portray morals and themes throughout their childhood films.  Movies like Toy Story, Frozen, Cars, and Ratatouille still illustrate themes of good triumphing over evil that hard work is a strong moral character and the human compass according to Disney always points towards a happy ending (Suarez, 2016).


  • “About Ward Kimball | Biography | Conductor, Animator, Jazz Musician, Screenwriter, Bandmaster | United States of America.” UpClosed, upclosed.com/people/ward-kimball/.
  • “Animation Reel for Disney Effects Animator Joshua Meador.” Maya Tutorials, Maya 3D Training, Home of SimplyMaya, simplymaya.com/sm-news-articles/32/animation-reel-for-disney-effects-animator-joshua-meador/.
  • “Brad Bird.” Pixar Talk, 26 Mar. 2018, www.pixartalk.com/pixarians/brad-bird/.
  • “John Lasseter Biography.” Encyclopedia of World Biography, www.notablebiographies.com/newsmakers2/2007-Co-Lh/Lasseter-John.html.
  • “Make Believe: The World of Glen Keane.” The Walt Disney Family Museum, www.waltdisney.org/blog/make-believe-world-glen-keane.
  • McNary, Dave. “2018 Worldwide Box Office Hits Record as Disney Dominates.” Variety, 3 Jan. 2019, variety.com/2019/film/news/box-office-record-disney-dominates-1203098075/.
  • Shah, Meet. “Walt Disney: Story from Failure to Success.” SetQuotes, SetQuotes, 20 Sept. 2018, www.setquotes.com/walt-disney-story-from-failure-to-success/.
  • Suarez, Ana Luisa, et al. “The Evolution of Disney Films From Snow White to Now.” Hollywood.com, 25 Mar. 2016, www.hollywood.com/movies/the-evolution-of-disney-films-from-snow-white-to-now-60557826/#/ms-22719/1.
  • “The First of the Nine: Les Clark.” The Walt Disney Family Museum, www.waltdisney.org/blog/first-nine-les-clark.
  • “Walt’s Animation and Special Effects Master: Josh Meador.” The Walt Disney Family Museum, www.waltdisney.org/blog/walts-animation-and-special-effects-master-josh-meador.
  • “Ward Kimball (Creator).” TV Tropes, tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Creator/WardKimball.


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